Thursday, 21 May 2009

Stand up and be counted please!

Not unlike a film still, the Indian express has published a photograph of Rubina Ali, who played the role of young Latika in the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire, looking at the demolished ruins of her home, after the bulldozers have raised it to the ground. The image is dramatic if it was a cinematic frame, but sadly it is for real. How we loved the moment of the "cute child" on the red carpet, disregarding the trauma of dislocation we bring through such situations, in so long as we are gratified by it. For us she is now a forgotten "star", as we turn our attention to the next thing that attracts us and our fickle whimsies.

The slogan Roti, Kapad aur Makan seems to be a forgotten promise of the neta's of our country as the rhetoric of election speeches lie unfulfilled after victory, time after time. The contradictions that we trip over, day after day, never seems to awaken the desire in us as a nation to do anything that could address these injustices in a systematic and planned manner. We are inherently fatalistic by nature as Indians. Kissmat and karma are how we explain the plight of the under privileged as we cross our fingers and wave lemons and chillies around us, to ward away the evil eye!

I would imagine that the revenues received by each state through taxation and the budgets sanctioned for development by the centre, could easily create a system that starts a process of housing schemes for those forced to live in the illegal basties that dot our cities. That most of our domestic labour force lives in such dwellings seems a cruel paradox, as they toil during the day in the elitists surroundings of those more privileged than them, to return to live in conditions that are often sub- human and dangerous, whilst we turn a blind eye to it all, and preserve the social divide through generations.

The lavishness of Indian weddings, festivals and celebrations in general are just one example of where more sensitivity and enlightenment could be a guiding factor to spend personal money on areas of development, instead of personal gratification. It has been a choice in our family that when our son gets married the only ritual from our side will be a civil registry ceremony. There will be no reception, because it is the faces of children like Runbina Ali that disallow us such indulgences. Instead we find ways each year to locate small areas of social rehabilitation, via education or other opportunities, and to give another person the chance of belief through our attention to their problems.

I am a hopeless idealist and am unashamed about it. I want to know that there is always a potential to receive, where intervention of the smallest nature brings betterment to situations of need. I also know that I am not alone in thinking this way and that others too work to create proactive methods for change. When I see the bewilderment of disbelief on the face of Rubina Ali, I hope that a nation finds its conscience to act upon it, because thousands of Rubina Ali's need our help each day. Small, tiny acts of intervention are so valuable and so easy to accommodate. We just have to find the right mindset to do it.

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